Common Core: I am not in favor of the Common Core Standards. What do you think of the “lesson” example below? It teaches some interesting, to say the least, things about American government, doesn’t it? Click here or on the image (below) to see an excellent video presentation on Common Core education by Professor of English, Dr. Duke Peska, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. See “Links” page for more information about Common Core.
Data Sharing and Common Core. Click here for more information.
Accountability in government and in education
We have a serious problem in our country. The national debt is over $17 trillion dollars and printing presses cannot print money fast enough to keep pace with demand. Meanwhile, the American dollar is worth less than 10% of what it was worth when we went off the gold standard and the US dollar is on the verge of losing its status as the reserve currency for worldwide trade. But, that’s not the worst part of our problem. The WORST part of the problem is that the average American cares very little, if at all, about this situation.
In Wyoming only 56% of those people who are eligible to vote are actually registered to vote. Wyoming author, Rodger McDaniel, claims that we are reaching the breaking point for a democracy. He says, “At this rate of decline, it will not be more than a couple more election cycles before fewer than half of those eligible are registered.” If that happens, he says (and I agree with him), it can fairly be asked, “How can elections be [considered] legitimate…?”₁
The British historian, Lord Acton, in 1887 wrote, “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Even before him, framers of our US Constitution, also known as Founding Fathers, warned of the dangers of too much power in the hands of too few and instructed citizens of the new Republic to be vigilant. Our very system of government is full of a very carefully and intricately planned system of checks and balances on power.
Benjamin Franklin said, “[E]very Man who comes among us, and takes up a piece of Land, becomes a Citizen, and by our Constitution has a Voice in Elections, and a share in the Government of the Country.” But, then he said, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin: Letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789₂. And, of course, everyone is familiar with his answer to the question, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” His answer was, of course, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”₃
Now, we are seeing like never before the practical implications of the lessons and warnings of history playing out before our own eyes. In Wyoming, where only 56% of those eligible to vote are actually registered voters, we have seen the largest power grab ever in the history of our state, which occurred in the legislative session of 2013 when our legislature overwhelmingly passed Senate File 104 in blatant violation of our state Constitution, which reads, in Article 7, Section 14,
The Wyoming legislature wrote and passed a bill, with overwhelming support, that divested the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction from having general supervision for the public schools of Wyoming and, instead, consolidated power into the hands of the governor, creating a Director of Education to take over most of the duties of the Superintendent and to be accountable (not elected) to the governor.
It’s really no big surprise based upon what we know about power that the Wyoming governor and legislature would attempt to take this power from the people given that only a little over half of the people are even paying attention enough to be registered voters.
The best thing that could happen in terms of keeping government, in general, and education, in specific, accountable would be for those people who stood in opposition to SF104 and are now challenging sitting legislators to be elected to the WY state legislature. Secondly, an effort and priority need to be placed on prevailing upon a much greater percentage of our population to become not only registered voters, but more informed citizens.
The best accountability is accountability to the people whom our government was designed to serve: the citizens/voters. Accountability in government as in education is best placed in the hands of those who have a real stake in the outcome. For government in general, that is the citizens/voters. But, for education, that would be parents and grandparents, teachers, and taxpaying citizens. It is those people, not bureaucrats in Washington, DC or “educrats” in a Think Tank, academic institution, or Union, who are the ones who should be holding education and educational outcomes accountable. I believe in an elected statewide Board of Education. And, I believe that the citizens of the state of Wyoming MUST wake up the importance of the role that they need to play in one of the most important issues facing our future: the education of our children.
If we are to truly fix the chasm that has occurred in our state over disagreements about education, and if we are to do a truly adequate job of educating our children, we MUST create greater local accountability mechanisms, and that means citizen involvement through voter registration and greater involvement of all citizens who have a stake in the education of our children in Wyoming.
Minerals Industry and Economic Development
The current administration sits in office at a time when Wyoming is the fastest growing state government in the country. While Wyoming has been ranked among the best managed states, one must seriously consider the fact that our rich mineral wealth and the robustness of the oil and gas industries are to be credited as much or more than those currently serving in our state government.
Of concern, is the direction our state has been taking with regard to the openness of our current elected representatives and governor to accepting the infusion of more and more federal dollars. With federal dollars comes federal regulations and requirements that dictate how things will be done in Wyoming. Wyoming must resist federal regulatory pressures that would interfere with its oil, gas, and coal industries while at the same time being good stewards of these earthly resources.
With regard to the SLIB board and economic development activities in the state, I am not a big fan of using taxpayer money to fund private enterprise; nor am I a big fan of the government showing favoritism to pick “winners” and “losers” with public money, especially if that process interferes with free enterprise or gives an unfair advantage to businesses or projects that do not justify an advantage. With that said, in the present era, states characteristically compete with each other to attract out-of-state business.
So, with regard to economic development, I think that there needs to be strong, objective criteria for how taxpayer money is used for economic development that ensures that we are not interfering with the competitiveness of established businesses nor allowing current business owners who are serving on economic development boards an opportunity to unfairly protect their own private interests against new comers and free market forces. I also think that part of the criteria for the application of economic development money should be that applicants who obtain such funding should be applying it to endeavors which would provide a clear benefit to the state and its communities that would most likely go unmet were it not for the availability and applicability of these funds.
The Welfare of our Citizens
One of the issues that is of great importance and personal interest to me is the fact that Wyoming continues to consistently have the highest suicide rate in the United States. For many of the past several years it has been #1 in this dubious distinction, and even when it isn’t #1, it is always in the top 5. A lot of attention and emphasis has been put on this problem in recent years, thankfully. But, I believe there is still a long way to go.
The late Senator Schiffer introduced legislation in the 2014 legislative session to revise Title 25 on Involuntary Hospitalization of people with acute mental health issues. The National Institute of Health reports that depression is a factor in over 90% of suicides. Depression is a biological illness that is a symptom of many specific illnesses from bi-polar disorder to schizophrenia to alcohol and substance abuse to dementia and bereavement. And, for too long there has been both a stigma associated with people who have brain-based illnesses that have an effect on behavior as well as a revolving door of inadequate treatment that leaves many, including perhaps our legislators, with the impression that a bill like this may end up costing more than would be justified. However, Senator Schiffer’s bill provided for involuntary out-patient treatment, which would be much more cost-effective than the traditional in-patient solution for involuntary commitment. In addition, he had a well-thought out and well-considered plan for cooperative efforts between law enforcement and medical health professionals. He was a humanitarian who did a lot in this area for our state, and it would be my honor and privilege to carry the goals and intent of this legislation forward.
Other issues affecting the population of Wyoming that I think are worthy of consideration are that we need some key legislation to address weaknesses in domestic violence laws; we have issues of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse that are quite troubling as well. When I worked with the Family Promise organization, a non-profit that provides housing and support to homeless families, I was also made aware that there is an inadequacy in our state laws with regard to homeless teenagers that causes there to be a liability issue that is an impediment to the provision of services to this population. I will look further into this area if I am elected.
Finally, for now, but not last, I think that we need to change our child labor laws to make the climate more favorable for children who are between 14 and 16 to be able to obtain a summer or part-time (during the school year) job. Kids who are under 16 are typically turned down by local fast-food restaurants and other employers citing child labor laws. Yet, this is a key age in a child’s development and an ideal time for them to have the opportunity to develop life skills, including developing a healthy work ethic, not to mention that kids need to have purposeful activity. I think it would be a positive thing for our kids and it would have the side benefit of helping alleviate some of the labor shortage we have.
Paid for by Committee to Elect Kara Linn